Though her name has mostly been built as a prominent ambient music artist, Diane Arkenstone is a multi-genre musician. She has created transcendent ambient songs, as well as trance, world, americana, Native American, and Celtic music.”
How Listening to Relaxation Music Affects Us
Songs Set A Mood
Drums were played to lead soldiers into battle. Your national anthem is meant to evoke feelings of camaraderie and pride. Some fire us up, and some help us find a relaxed state of mind. Relaxation music is proven to help you destress and take control of your thoughts. It can help you step away from anxiety and consciously move your thoughts away from areas you’d rather not be thinking about. But how does it do this? And what should we be listening to if we want to relax?
Did you know there’s an American Music Therapy Association? Music therapists are in hospitals and clinics working to ease pain and promote wellness. Music is powerful, and so are our emotions. Using tools to alter how we feel has a more profound impact than some of us may have guessed.
The Science of Sound
There is actually a scientific term for studying how sound affects us: psychoacoustics. This is a branch of science that studies the way we hear and perceive sound. It looks at how sound affects our experience of life on an emotional and psychological level. In the realm of psychoacoustics, scientists look at how all different sounds affect us, including music, and specifically relaxation music.
These studies look at how the slower, beautiful sounds we associate with being more relaxing affect our heart rates and even our brainwaves. They’ve done EEG (electroencephalogram) tests to watch our brain waves and see how we react.
While people have understood for centuries that music affects us, it’s interesting to watch how science dives into explaining how this works. How certain sounds can ease our stress and bring us deeper into the world around us.
They’ve found that while some of us prefer to talk to a friend after a bad breakup, others get the same benefits from listening to a sad song. In other situations, two weeks of listening to upbeat songs have profoundly changed the way the listener perceived the world.
Slower beats and smoother sounds slow our heartbeats, reduce anxiety, increase positivity, and lead to a deeper night’s rest.
Of course, all of us prefer different sounds and find relaxation in different places.
The Sounds of Nature
Studies have found that for many of us, the resting state of our minds, also known as our default mode network (DMN), is often a place where we worry. Our thoughts turn inward. They also found that the sounds of nature pull us out of our inward directed thoughts. We become more centered and find our place in the world, instead of focusing only on the worries of the day.
Diane Arkenstone grew up on a ranch, where she would flee from the house, sing, and create music while riding her horse and wandering through the woods. This is where her connection with music and nature began, and can be heard in many of the songs she creates now as an adult. The song “Canyon Dreams” begins with crickets chirping in the night. “Rhythm of the Forest” begins with the sounds of birds in the forest. These nature-inspired moments are subtle, but they’re part of what make her songs such great relaxation music right from the first notes. Her songs use all of the elements we’ve found so successful in the studies involving relaxation music.
If you’re looking for these songs, you can find them and others for download on Amazon, iTunes, or Spotify.
Singing Can Help You Relax
Have you ever felt less stressed after singing along with a song? Singing releases endorphins. Endorphins are often known as the happy hormone. They interact with receptors in our brain that alter our perception of pain. This also triggers a happy, positive feeling in our bodies that make us feel a little brighter about everything. Singing also stimulates oxytocin production, which relieves stress in our bodies.
While the slower sounds of relaxing tunes can certainly help us relax and there is a lot of science to back this up, singing along with a faster-paced favorite is also an excellent strategy for soothing your mind.
If you’re looking for a song with lyrics you can sing along to, check out Diane Arkenstone’s song “When I Fall”. The song is simple, easy to sing along to, and emotionally powerful.
The Relationship Between Soothing Sounds And Meditation
Many swear by a completely silent room for their meditation sessions, but others have found this to be a powerful way to connect with music and expand their practice. MIndfulness is a way to manage anxiety and lower stress, in the same way that scientists have discovered music can also do these same things. Could it be a marriage made in heaven?
Common Misconceptions About Relaxing Music and Meditation
While meditation has been around for centuries, it’s only recently reached a point in our culture where many of the misconceptions have been cleared up in the mainstream. There are still heavy misconceptions out there though, especially when it comes to enjoying your favorite song during meditation.
Misconception #1: You Can’t Meditate With Music
Some practitioners have only been exposed to particular methods while learning meditation. For example, many focus on their breath. But when you focus on your breath, you’re focusing on the feel of it, and also the sound. You are keeping a steady beat.
Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand with music that touches you, that brings you more actively into the world and helps you better engage with life.
One element to the misconception here is that people often believe they are trying to make their mind go blank. You’re not. You’re learning to control your thoughts, to become mindful, to find inner calm and peace, but your mind never goes blank.
Misconception #2:You Can Only Relax to Music Meant for Meditation
You can meditate to any music you find relaxing, any song that makes it easier for you to align your thoughts and find peace. If the soothing, beautiful droning music you hear in the song “Little Raven” on Diane Arkenstone’s “This Sacred Land” album soothe your mind and help you meditate, then that’s perfect for you. If you prefer the Americana twang of guitar strings, you can try “Union Road”. Whatever relaxation music works for you and feels right is what you should be listening to.
Who Can Find Benefit From Listening to Songs During Meditation
If you’re new to meditation, listening to music can help you break through the barriers of learning how to get started. Despite the fact that this is an activity meant to help relax you and open your mind, many are nervous and feel so much pressure to control their thoughts during their early sessions that they spend the whole time in an anxiety meltdown instead. Listening to soothing sounds can help put you at ease and help you understand how the process works.
For seasoned practitioners, many report they derive more value from their sessions when they add music to their practice. Relating back to the scientific studies, music increases our sensory perception. It makes sense then that with heightened senses, songs would help bring your mind to a deeper place. It may take trying a few different types of music to find what works for you, but if you are successful, this can be a tool for expanding your practice to new places.
There are so many things to look for in the music that helps us with relaxing. Maybe you respond best to nature sounds. Perhaps beautiful, unbroken droning sounds help your heart rate steady. Or maybe you need to sing along to get your endorphins running. Some of us find our inner calm through listening to music while we meditate.
However it is you use music to change your mood, the power comes in recognizing how these sounds affect you and then using them to get your best result. Once you recognize that five minutes sitting somewhere along, listening to your favorite song, can help with soothing your anxiety and slowing down your anxious thoughts, then the power is back in your hands. You have the tools to direct your thoughts and your mind where you want it to be. That’s the power of understanding yourself. It’s the power of music, self love, and taking the time to do right by yourself.